Episode 63: Overthinking vs Problem-Solving
Welcome back to the show! It’s been another amazing week and thank you to all who attended the last webinar, kickstart your confidence! That was awesome.
I have a new webinar coming your way THIS week. Confidence for Creatives that is just ridiculously fun and full of incredible content and tools that you can apply immediately so for that one check out the show notes or my social media feeds and save your seat. There is limited space so make sure you snag your spot asap.
Okay, today I’m bringing you something that I think will be quite applicable and helpful for you in light of everything going on in the world and around us. There’s a running joke that people are going to start using 2020 as a verb. Like in a negative context, “everything was going good and then it turned all 2020 on me” right?
The truth is we have a lot of thoughts about what’s going on and really it doesn’t even matter that it’s 2020. We have a lot of thoughts period. We think between 60,000-90,000 thoughts per day and the majority of those thoughts are your brain’s attempts to make sense of the world around you. It does this by creating a story and weaving tales. It offers you potential explanations and I tell you what, it’s a masterful storyteller. You think you’re not a good storyteller but I’m betting you believe most of what your brain offers you, hook, line, and sinker.
We all do. It’s important to take note of this because your thoughts create how you feel and if you’re not feeling super fabulous then you’ll want to pause and take a look at your story.
Okay so here’s where today’s message comes into play.
Since we’re always thinking and we want to think and make sense of things but we also don’t want to get sucked into a story that feels terrible I want to introduce you to the concept of overthinking vs problem-solving.
One area that a lot of struggle with is getting caught up in the swirl of constant non-stop thoughts and the more you think about something and try and analyze it the deeper and deeper you find yourself spinning in doubt, fear, worry, and before you know it you’ve just surfaced several insecurities about yourself and about what others think of you.
We don’t even have to have a specific circumstance or a trigger so to speak for us to have these moments either. Sometimes it’s just you getting tired and wanting to relax. But chances are as soon as you’re in bed your brain has other plans. Out of nowhere, your brain reminds you of a text thread you were in or an email or phone call you had and what you said in the conversation and “oh my goodness! What was I thinking?! They probably interpreted that wrong. They’re probably thinking I’m crazy” and then as if that’s not the icing on the cake it takes it a step further and wakes up the negativity bias (which I’m not sure it ever sleeps or takes breaks) and then it chimes in about all the potential and possible ways that could go wrong or bad. So now instead of relaxing and drift into a calm sleep, you’re panicked and full of worry that something is for sure wrong, people are thinking the worst of you, what are you going to do now?! Your heart is racing and with each thought, you find yourself deeper and deeper in this swirl of overthinking and doubt.
We’ve all been there and it’s the opposite of confidence because you’re focusing on all the fears, feeding the doubts, indulging in a story that clearly isn’t serving you and the worst part of it is that you believe it. You think that you HAVE to participate because you might have to “fix” something. Now what?!
This is a classic case of overthinking.
Side note: We can’t really overthink because we’re always thinking however overthinking here I’m using it to illustrate the practice of indulging in thoughts that aren’t serving you and in a storyline that creates stress, worry, doubts, and fears.
If you’re a frequent overthinker this episode will help you out tremendously and help you to cultivate confidence instead of fear.
I want to point out that there’s nothing wrong with remembering words said, or replaying a conversation, or thinking about a text. Totally normal. Everyone does it. But being swept away by it is optional and unnecessary.
I want you to think of a snow-globe. As a kid I loved snow-globes. They’re just so pretty with all the swirling glitter or snow right? Who am I kidding, even as an adult when we see one of those at a store we can’t help but turn it over and watch it flurry right?
Thoughts are like this snow globe. Our negativity bias remembers that event and sounds the alarm. Like, Something MIGHT be a problem. That’s it’s job to look for any potential, possible dangers but often times it gets it all wrong. And instead of setting the snow-globe down and letting it all settle we just keep shaking it again and again and in the process we create blizzards of stress and anxiety for ourselves.
The best thing you can do is to stop over-thinking – which is to indulge in the current storyline and instead turn to problem-solving.
You’ll hear a lot of advice from friends or the internet where they say just STOP thinking that and I heard it explained once by a neurologist that asking your brain to STOP thinking when it’s in that heightened state is like driving on the freeway at 90 miles and hour and yanking the emergency brake and trying to stop. Not a good or safe practice.
What you want to do instead is take that energy you’ve created and transferred it into a way that serves you and will be beneficial. This is where problem-solving comes into play.
Problem-solving is productive. Overthinking is exhausting. Problem-solving is positive and has a goal in mind. Overthinking thinks it has a goal – like where’s the danger, I know it’s here somewhere. It’s very one-track-minded and fixates on this event versus problem-solving which is redirecting your energy and thoughts into a story that serves you and works for you instead of against you.
When you overthink you create a tunnel vision for yourself and you’re stuck on the first step – the problem and let’s find all the reasons why it’s a problem and what’s going to happen because of this problem and it’s usually doom and gloom with no chance of escape. Not a fun place.
Problem-solving on the other hand allows you to take the blinders off your eyes and opens your mind to possibilities, to options, and to creative outlets.
So before I get into problem-solving and some tools that are incredibly helpful I want to pause for a moment and just say that when you’re feeling an intense emotion. Basically, once you’ve started that blizzard and you’ve shaken up the snow globe you’ll want to hold off on doing any thought work for a moment.
Your brain is entrenched in the flurry and it’d be too difficult to reason with it. So in that instance, you just need to feel what you’re feeling.
Instead of continuing with the inner dialogue you just need to ask yourself, what am I feeling? All those thoughts, what’s one overall emotion that you’re feeling?
Overwhelm? Fear? Worry? Doubt? Anxiety?
Pick just one and then ask yourself, what does overwhelm feel like? Where do I feel it in my body? Trace the emotion.
Your brain is always solving a problem and either you give it a problem to solve or it’ll create a problem to solve hence the overthinking, blizzard.
Give your brain the problem of tracing the emotion in your body. Follow the vibration. When your mind wants to bring up, “oh yeah, and this and this” redirect and just think, “wait, we’re doing this first” and follow the vibration. Is it fast? Is it slow? What does it feel like?
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist teaches that the feeling only takes 90 seconds to cycle through your body. All the energy, all that worry, all that discomfort can dissipate and lessen as you follow the 90-second cycle.
Notice what you’re doing at this point. When you’re focusing on the vibration and where it is in your body, where it builds up, what it feels like behind your eyes – we feel so much behind our eyes you’re not entertaining the worry, the doubts, the negative storyline anymore.
You’ve created new thoughts that creates a new feeling and in this case, it’s curiosity because you’re asking questions, you’re observing, you’re looking from the outside in. I promise you this is such an underutilized superpower that we all have and all are capable of.
Curiosity is a beautiful springboard then into problem-solving. Sometimes you can make the shift straight from overthinking to problem-solving but it’s tricky because your mind is an incredible salesman and will want to keep bringing up the original storyline because it feels useful. It feels like it’s doing something even if that something is worrying and not helping you in the long run.
So I always recommend clearing the slate, feel the emotion, and then from that point ease into problem-solving.
Problem-solving is beautiful because it IS actually productive. It’s helping you understand what you’re thinking and getting to know another facet of your brain – which is step one in the confidence model.
Just note the thought line and instead of buying into it choose to be skeptical. Choose to question that story. Take every exclamation point and add a question mark. Really?
Sometimes this overthinking and worry seems to come out of nowhere. You see something and you’re triggered and within a split second, you’re reminded of a painful event or storyline. Your brain is amazing at recalling events and past stories in attempts to warn you that, “Hey, we didn’t like that last time, warning, warning”
One of my clients told me this experience she had with this. Her mom complimented her sister for her musical abilities and within seconds – like milliseconds she was brought back to a time decades earlier where her mom listened to her perform and made a negative comment about it. And she felt rejected all over again even though nothing in the present was directed at her or about her.
It was her mind connecting dots – making huge leaps and like reminding her that mom and music might be dangerous.
Now for most people, we’d indulge in that storyline. We’d go back a decade ago and sit in that room feeling the sting of rejection all over again. We’d question our abilities and think, maybe she is better than me. Maybe she does deserve all the high praise. Who am I? I’m nothing. She never compliments me or notices me.
And do we see how quickly and how easily we get sucked into overthinking and indulging in the story when in the present the circumstances had nothing to do with her.
This is when you’ll want to catch the feeling. It’s hard to catch the thoughts sometimes especially when it’s a strong emotion. So don’t try and catch the thought yet. Catch the feeling. In this case, she was feeling rejection and doubting her self-worth.
Notice it. Name the feeling. FEEL the feeling – not think the feeling but feel it. Then question it.
Then ease into problem-solving.
Question the belief. Does she really like her more than me? Does she really think I’m not talented or capable? And do I need her to think that about me? Why do I think I need that?
These questions create the feeling of curiosity and exploration which feels a million times better than judgment, condemnation, and rejection.
From here with your options and possibilities, you might still struggle to latch on to any of these other thoughts even though you know they’ll feel better. Sometimes we just can’t accept them because we’re so tied to our original storyline.
It’s like worrying that someone doesn’t like you and then trying to offer to yourself that they love you. You’re like, no…I don’t think so. They’re really negative towards me. I’m pretty sure they don’t like me.
So in that case you need to ask yourself another question. “Am I keeping this belief because it’s familiar to me?” Sometimes we argue in favor of the very thoughts and storyline that feels so terrible simply because it’s familiar. It’s what we’ve always thought. Your brain would rather stick to a negative story that feels awful than venture into an unknown story because it doesn’t like anything unknown. To your brain that’s scary because it can’t predict the outcome.
So it’d rather stick to the terrible story because at least it knows you’ll survive it. It’s been through it before and you still come out okay so let’s think that.
So you have to decide intentionally do I want to keep this story even though I know it’s optional?
I love Byron Katie’s four questions:
1.) Is it true?
2.) Is it really true? Can you prove it? (hint here: The answer is always no)
3.) How do you react when you believe that thought?
4.) Who would you be without that thought?
These questions are so brilliant because it demands that you question your story. The first question, is it true we always answer with YES! They really don’t like me
But then that second question, can you really know it’s true? No. Even if she said, “I don’t like you” I can’t prove it because I don’t know that she’s not lying and making it up or saying things she doesn’t mean.
Then the last two questions offer you options. It demands that you look into an alternate future, an alternate story, and shows you who you can be without the current track.
So it’s a totally different ballgame when you ask yourself now, do I want to keep this story now that I’ve seen myself in a different light?
So now you want to make a choice. You want to take all that prior work and turn it into something actionable – a choice, a decision, a path.
That happened, now what?
What do I want to do about it? Do I want or need to do anything about it?
Sometimes the best thing to do is let the snow settle.
Just stop shaking the snow-globe and let it settle. Don’t do anything. Don’t respond. Don’t overthink and instead feel the emotion. Watch the vibration as you would watch the snow-globe settle.
Then invite yourself to come into the present moment. When you think about it anytime you’re stressed or in worry mode it’s because you’re not in the present moment. You’re in the past and thinking, “I shouldn’t have done that, said that, thought that” and then we worry. So come into the present moment instead.
In this moment, I’m okay. Right now, everything is fine. I am okay in this moment. Nothing is wrong in this present moment.
Now, you can think, why is this a problem for me and does it need to be a problem for me? So much of what we try to fix isn’t broken in the first place.
Instead of overthinking turn your thoughts into a direction, you want to go in.
When you start to change your story you’re giving your brain a new problem to solve. It’s not looking for evidence to prove that thought true.
And just notice the subtle shift in your emotions. You’re not feeling terrible anymore because you’re not thinking that terrible storyline anymore now you’re thinking about what you do want and notice how that feels.
Your feelings always drive your actions. When you feel good you do good. You’re not going to wallow or stay stuck any more chances are you’ll want to do something, say something, text something, create something.
Problem-solving moves you into action and action creates different results for you. The more you practice this, the more you start creating new wiring, new paths for your brain to default to. The more you practice problem-solving the less you’ll notice your brain wanting to spin out in overthinking.
I love problem-solving. I love giving my brain an intentional thought to think. It’s powerful and best of all productive. When you’re problem-solving what you’re really doing is creating certainty for yourself. You’re creating a solid story for yourself that you can move forward into with confidence and with security.
Overthinking creates worry and doubts. It indulges in fear.
Problem solving creates confidence. It expounds on trust and giving yourself what you really need and want. Practice this and if you’re having a hard time with it. Set up a free coaching call with me. I’d love to walk you through this!
Okay, you guys. Have a fantastic week! I’ll talk to you next time!